Upbeat, lively, inquisitive, and friendly, the joyful Russell Terrier (aka Jack Russell Terrier) originated in England, however, Australia has been designated as the country of development for the breed. The Russell Terrier was developed for use in the sport of foxhunting; their handy size, small flexible chest, short legs, strong voice and fearless nature made them excellent workers below ground chasing fox. Today the Russell is used as an eager, tireless working terrier.
Two distinct breeds evolved with similar standards except for height and proportion. The Russell Terrier is shorter in height with a rectangular shape; the Parson Terrier is taller with a more square shape.
Russell Terrier Appearance
Russell Terriers range from 10 to 12 inches tall and weigh 9 to 15 pounds; they are longer than tall with an obvious rectangle shape.Their dark, almond-shaped eyes and V-shaped ears bring out their keenly intelligent expression. The Russell Terrier’s rough and ready appearance is easily maintained. The JRT coats have an undercoat as well as a harsh outer coat providing protection from the weather and brambles and brush. Coats come in three types: smooth, broken, and rough; all types are mostly white with markings that are tan or black, or both.
The dense, short, smooth coat can be kept looking great with an all-over rubdown with a soft brush or a hound glove once a week. The rough and broken coats will require going over with a brush or a dog comb weekly but are kept mostly natural, with minimal grooming. Docking of the tail is an option for Russell Terriers.
Russell Terrier’s life expectancy is 12 to 14 years. They are bold and fearless, quietly confident yet friendly. The Russell Terrier is highly trainable, but he has a mind of his own and won’t stand for boredom. Their tails may drop when they are bored or extremely focused. If you don’t keep him entertained, he’ll find his own amusement, and you probably won’t be happy with the results.
He’s devoted to his people and loves being with them. His heritage as a hunting dog makes him an excellent jogging companion once he’s full grown. Active older children will find him to be a happy and affectionate playmate, but his rambunctious nature can overwhelm younger kids.
The Russell Terriers thrive when he’s with his family and should not live outdoors or in a kennel. When you leave the house, try turning on a radio to help prevent separation anxiety. Friendly toward people, he can be aggressive toward other dogs and animals that resemble prey, including cats. Jacks can be recreational barkers, so they’re not suited to apartment life.
Aggression toward other dogs can be a serious problem with the Russell Terrier if he’s not taught to get along with other canines from an early age.
Jacks are bouncy and will jump up on people and things. They’re capable of jumping higher than 5 feet. Russells have a strong prey drive and will take off after smaller animals. They should never be trusted off leash unless they’re in a fenced area.
Caring for a Russell Terrier
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Russell Terrier.
The Russell Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
The Russell Terrier is not a breed for a couch-potato family. High energy levels and a robust personality make this an excellent choice of breed for an outdoorsy family who takes lots of hikes, bike rides, and long daily walks. Finding games he loves to play will help keep his brain and his body exercised. A tired Russell Terrier is a good RT. With an almost limitless supply of energy, this makes a great companion dog for children who understand dogs. The breed has retained a strong prey drive so should be very well socialized early on to overcome any problems that might result from that trait.
The first tool one must have when training a Russell Terrier is a good sense of humor. They are extremely intelligent and love to work on problems and play games. They thrive on structure and routing but they bore easily, so training sessions must be kept entertaining and avoid repetition if you want them to learn. They master tricks easily and love entertaining people by performing. They throw themselves into any job or activity with the same dedication they were bred to have for hunting purposes. They are great choices for canine sports such as agility, flyball, obedience, rally, and even lure coursing.
The majority of Russell Terriers are happy, healthy little dogs but like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions:
- Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: A deformity of the ball of the hip joint which can be confused with hip dysplasia. It causes wearing and arthritis.
- Deafness: Associated with white coat color and is sometimes seen in this breed.
- Patellar Luxation: Also known as “slipped stifles,” is a common problem in small dogs. It is caused when the patella is not properly lined up. This causes lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait, sort of like a skip or a hop.
- Glaucoma: A painful disease in which pressure is abnormally high in the eye.
- Lens Luxation causes the lens of the eye to become displaced when the ligament holding it in place deteriorates.
Trim nails once or twice a month. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they’re too long. Short, neatly trimmed nails keep the feet in good condition and protect your shins from getting scratched when your Jack enthusiastically jumps up to greet you. Brush his teeth at least two or three times a week to prevent tartar buildup and periodontal disease, daily for best results.
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